Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Sacha Brenninkmeijer, IESE Business School

Sacha Brenninkmeijer

IESE Business School at the University of Navarra

“An international young leader, with a passion for people and operations!”

Hometown: Nowhere specific! I am half Dutch/ half English but lived in many countries.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am the mother of a 1-year-old, who moved to Barcelona with me and my husband for my MBA.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of London, SOAS

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: C&A, Head of Retail Stores in Belgium, and Luxembourg

What makes the case method so attractive to learn and become a better manager? Having started working in the case method, I am convinced that this is the best way to learn. The case method not only brings real business situations to life, but it also means that every class you have prepared in advance. Thus, instead of traditional ‘teaching,’ the class discussions are deeper and you learn from colleagues as well as the actual case. The professors are excellently trained to bring out discussions within classes. The case method also puts you in a business-like situation, ensuring that you participate with your own opinion, which is a perfect training ground for a future leadership role.

What has been your favorite part of Barcelona so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA?  Originally, I was hesitant about moving to Barcelona as I was concerned that my Spanish was not good enough. However, Barcelona has proven to be a great place to do an MBA. It’s a vibrant city with many businesses and startups. It also opens the Spanish and South American markets for potential jobs, thanks to the support of the IESE Business Spanish program. It is located a short flight away from the rest of Europe. The sun, food and weather are obviously a bonus!

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the IESE Business School MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? One of the main reasons I chose IESE was the feeling that there was a complete support network to make the MBA the best possible experience for me – even before I had confirmed that I would study there. I was married and pregnant when I was applying to IESE, and for me it was important that there would be a community that would welcome my husband (a non-student) and one that welcomed families – as I knew doing an MBA and being a mom would not be easy. At IESE, I have found a supportive community of people in similar situations. This has been wonderful for our whole family.

The IESE MBA is known for heavy reading and rigorous academics. Has the program lived up to its reputation? What advice would you give to first years to help them thrive in the early months of the program? Yes, IESE has lived up to its reputation. The best advice that I could give to first years to help them thrive is to really embrace working in teams. Set up a strong structure within you core team of 9. These diversified teams will support you in your learnings as well as help prep you for all the different case studies! The teams are handpicked by IESE to be a mixture of people of diverse nationalities, industries, roles, and genders. By having such a diverse group, you are challenged in your traditional thought process, and learn about situations that have happened to others and how they dealt with them.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at IESE? The first course that we had in IESE was a Communications course. It was fantastic because we learnt how to present ourselves, give diverse types of speeches, and how to tell stories within a business context. This helped us get to know our team members better, put us in situations that might be uncomfortable for several people, and really pushed us into something that is essential as a business leader. Most importantly, the speeches helped us prepare for how to get our points across clearly to our colleagues. This proved to be a foundation for the rest of the classes, where communication is so important.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest career accomplishment so far was to successfully lead the 110 stores that I was responsible for in Belgium through COVID-19. The COVID pandemic of course had a huge impact on fashion retail, meaning store closures and extra measures. Together with my team, I was able to lead our stores through this period safely.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: Completing the first term! The first term is busy with all the clubs, applications and starting to understand how the MBA works. I have learned about my priorities for the rest of the MBA and how I want to tackle them.

What has been your best memory as an MBA so far? My best memory was the Christmas Gala post-exams. It was fantastic to have the rush of finishing the exam period and being able to celebrate with my team and the close friends that I have made along the way.


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